The King Imperiled
by Deborah Chester
Review by Mel Jacob
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013538
Date: 29 November, 2005 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
War anchors the beginning and sets the stage for the remainder of this book and its sequel yet to come. Faldain inflicts vengeance on his enemies, the Gethori tribe responsible in The King Betrayed for the death of his first son and original heir. A Gethori sheda, female shaman, draws on ancient blood magic to curse him and all his family. The curse strikes Faldain, and he faces death unless he drinks from the Chalice of Eternal Life. Throughout the novel, Faldain experiences a series of dreams with warnings and possible future events.
The sheda has also nurtured the instrument of her revenge in a young boy, the Deliverer. She has fed him with her own blood strengthened with ancient magic. At first it appears he might lose his life amid the battle skirmishes, but Faldain saves him, unaware of the boy's identity.
Faldain's headstrong daughter Tashalya seeks power at any cost. Taken as a child by a malevolent sorcerel, she is unaware his influence still shapes her destiny. Her ambition leaves her prey to a demon from the second (spirit) world. The demon promises her greater magic, the powerful god-steel sword Truthseeker, and eternal love. Through sexual seduction he wins her help. The act of love drains her magic, but he delays fulfilling his promises. In exchange for the sword, he demands the Chalice.
With his aid, she kidnaps the heirs to the kingdoms of Nether and Mandria. The kidnapping risks war with the latter. She intends to use Nether's heir, her brother Niklas, to rule and considers a similar plan for the Mandrian heir.
A younger brother stumbles on the plot, and she takes him as well. With the Chalice and the boys, she flees to meet the demon at a nexus between the first and second world--the same place where in an earlier book, The Chalice, Faldain traded Truthseeker for his father's sword.
Alexieka must stop her daughter, free the heirs and her other son, and retrieve the Chalice. Without it, Faldain will die. She leaves him on the verge of death and departs on a desperate journey.
Difficult choices face Alexieka and Tashalya. Can Alexieka trust her headstrong daughter? Even when others show Tashalya the demon's true nature, she rejects the revelation as a false vision. Now she must make the most crucial decision of her life: abandoning the demon and her life-long dreams of power, or saving her father's life.
Chester creates vivid prose. The intense battle scenes propel the reader into breathless action. The pace slows a little as she switches from Faldain to other characters, but picks up with Tashalya's flight and her mother's chase.
Using history from the earlier books in the series, Chester weaves this story into a seamless whole. Characters change and develop as they fulfill their destinies and make choices. The seduction scenes between Tashalya and the demon may offend some, but shows the power of love and sex on a lonely young woman who believes herself unloved.
Readers of The Sword, The Ring, The Chalice, and The King Betrayed will enjoy her newest fantasy, The King Imperiled. She provides the reader with many clues to the next installment of the story, and the epilogue offers a strong hook to a sequel.